Espresso Coffee’s Story is as Concentrated as the Drink Itself
Thick, black, rich, and fragrant, espresso coffee seems steeped in the history of coffee itself. You might think, perhaps, that the coffee drink is indelibly linked to the coffeehouses that first began to spring up in Italy, the home of espresso, almost four centuries ago.
Surprisingly, espresso coffee history dates back only two centuries, and the drink and the espresso brewing method originated in France, not Italy. In 1822, French inventor Louis Bernard Rabaut first developed a method for brewing coffee quickly by passing pressurized steam and water through a filter tightly packed with finely ground coffee beans. His groundbreaking research led to the first full-sized espresso machine, developed in 1843 by Edward Loysel de Santais, which went on to amaze crowds at the 1855 Paris Exposition by brewing 2,000 cups of coffee in a single hour.
A Century of Espresso Coffee Making Refinement
Another half century passed, however, before Italian inventors adapted Rabaut’s and Santais’s work. They developed the first espresso machines resembling those still used today, in which the steaming hot water is passed through a small filter holding a single-serving portion of finely ground coffee to brew an individual cup.
Further refinements continued to be made to the basic concept throughout the 20th century: more efficient water tanks and heating methods; spring-activated and hydraulic pistons to control the passage of the water through the coffee; and even electronically controlled push-button espresso machines. The latest stage in espresso history and the espresso machine’s evolution is the coffee pod system, in which prepackaged, perfectly packed single-serving portions of ground espresso roast coffee eliminate the need for messing with ground coffee and filters.
Whatever the refinements, the end product remains the same: an express-brewed small cup of intense coffee essence: espresso coffee. And for almost two hundred years coffee lovers the world over have enjoyed it in much the same ways: as black espresso, or combined with milk heated and frothed with the steam from the espresso machine to make such signature espresso coffee drinks as an espresso macchiato, cappuccino, and caffè latte.